How to Deal with Regret

Have you ever wanted to do something but chickened out at the last minute? Something that years later still make you cringe when you remember it? This is my regret story, how I deal with regret, and what I learned from it.

the pinayist dealing with regret

My Regret Story

A few years ago I went to New York City on an exchange scholarship. It was my first time away from home. I did not have family in America. I did not know anyone in my host university.

After the disorienting jet lag had passed, I wanted to go out of my dorm. Out of my comfort zone. I thought I could do that by joining a club.

I found a call for tryouts to Columbia University Bellydance.

I was excited. I had lessons prior to leaving for the U.S. I know the basics. I got some moves. With the determination of a nobody in a new place, I told my roommate I was going to try for CU Bellydance. She encouraged me. I wore my best tryout clothes and went to the tryouts.

On the way there, the doubts started creeping in. What if other girls are better than me? What if I’m too short? What if they discriminate against me being a Filipina? What if they dance differently? What if they laugh at me? By the time I got there, I was shaking in fear.

It took all of me to approach the girls sitting at the registration table. I stood there with the sinking feeling that I was going to be torn into shreds. The only thing I said was, “What time is it?”

Then I ran away.

If you knew me after I got back from New York, you know I came home a more confident girl. This still happened.

And to this day when I don’t feel good enough I think about how afraid I was of rejection. So afraid that I didn’t even dare to list down my name.

We all have regrets.

We all have dreams we never dared to dream because we are poor, underprivileged, not educated enough, not beautiful enough, not strong enough, and the list goes on.

I can’t, because [insert insecurity here].

Maybe we have auditions from which we ran away.

Maybe our family has ridiculed and crushed our dreams from childhood.

Maybe society has taught us to value a stable job over a passion that is not sure to pay the bills.

Maybe the circumstances of our birth have not made it easy to find capital for that business.

Maybe we had parents who were so busy providing for our education that they didn’t get to write that book or invent that machine. Maybe they couldn’t model to us what going after dreams looks like.

How to deal with regret

Whatever the running monologue sounds like in our heads, from this regret I learned three things:

  1. We go to tryouts to offer potential, not perfection. A tryout is often used to detect possibility, to separate the ones who can improve from those who can’t. If you go, it’s two outcomes: you are in or better luck next time. If you never go, you will never know your potential.
  2. We are harsher to ourselves than any panel of judges in the world. On the way to the tryouts I gave myself all the reasons why I was not worthy of being chosen. I didn’t wait for anybody to crush my hopes; I went ahead and told myself I couldn’t do it. We are our own worst enemy. We don’t achieve so many of our goals because we already tell ourselves that we don’t deserve to get them.
  3. We might face rejection, but it’s better than spending the rest of our lives wondering what could have happened if we just got over ourselves and did it. I might have been encouraged to join a different club. Or maybe, I could have found new friends and a sense of belonging earlier than I allowed myself.

How to live without regrets

So how do we live without regrets? Take a chance on yourself. Write that book. Don’t leave until you know if you have what it takes, or until somebody asks you to leave.

Author: Pia Besmonte

Pia Besmonte is a poet, literature teacher, and author based in the Philippines. She wrote “Manic Pixie Depressive Gremlin”, a collection of poems on mental health awareness and empowerment for millennial Filipinas. She loves to paint, sing, watch films, and take care of her family, Team BLG.